Interview with Dr Mathole Mothekga by Vivian Jansen and Paulus Smits. December 2019.
Dr Mathole Mothekga. Times are hard for Southern Africa. Although there is a tremendous richness of minerals and a great labourpotential, the majority of the people live in poverty. Wars, corruption, maladministration and a structural lack of infrastructure and good education make of this big region south of the Sahara a real problem area. Many of the more than 220 million inhabitants don’t have any perspective.
They try to find a new future in the richest country on the subcontinent: South Africa. But this country also has many problems to solve. For the president of South Africa, Cyril Ramphosa, and his party ANC, there are many reasons to explore new possibilities, and to try to find cooperation with neighbours. That should result in Unites States of Southern Africa.
United States of Southern Africa to save the subcontinent
President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa has a dream. He wants to build a new city, which should become the heart of a big country that changes the subcontinent of southern Africa. There, in a modern city that is like a driving force for many developments, a new future will be born when eight countries unite into the United States of Southern Africa.
Ramaphosa’s dream (and from Dr Mathole Mothekga)
Ramaphosa spoke of his dream half a year ago, at the commemoration of 25 years of democracy in South Africa. “I dream of a South Africa where the first entirely new city built in the democratic era arises, with skyscrapers, schools, universities, hospitals and factories,” the president said.“This is a dream we can all share and participate in building. We have not built a new city in 25 years of democracy.”
His personal advisor and important ANC-member dr. Mathole Motshekga wants to go a step further: ‘Let our people turn back to the roots, to the days before colonialism, around 1500 ad. Let’s make a new start, eliminate the last remains of Apartheid and live in peace. It is not a coloured thing, it’s spiritual.”
New era for Southern Africa
Can this be real or will it always stay a dream? The president believes in his idea. The new city should not only be a proof of the possibilities of a country, but it can also be the beginning of a new era. And Mathole Motshekga underlines it: there are so many chances for the people of eight neighbouring countries, that time has really come to join together. There is an incredible wealth of natural resourcesand human potentials.
Motshekga has found a place where Ramaphosa’s new city should be built. In the utmost northern part of South Africa, near the place where Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa meet. The region, that is called Mapungubwe, has a long and rich history, it is a national park and a world heritage site. In the 13th century it was the centre of a high civilisation.
Dr Mathole Motskega cant wait
Motshekga can hardly wait, and for South Africa this is also a great opportunity, he says. Time is short, because the troubles are growing. The current situation gets worse. The systems are failing, corruption is increasing, and nobody trusts anybody. Important companies are in big trouble. Foreign countries, like China, Russia and Saudi Arabia, try to get a hold on the situation. And the arrival of millions of economic refugees from Zimbabwe and Mozambique doesn’t help to solve the problems.
He is educated as a lawyer, but he has been in politics since the days of Nelson Mandela. Nowadays he is chairman of the Land ReformCommittee, which was installed by president Ramaphosa. Motshekga also is chair of the national heritage institute.
Dr Mathole Mothekga knows where he is talking about
So he knows what he is talking about when he outlines the history of the continent. Once an almost empty land, with only nomads, hunters and collectors like the Khoikhoi people and the San, small people wandered from one place to the other.
Around the beginning of our year count, Nubian peoples from northern parts of Africa moved in southern direction and settled on the east coast of the continent, there where nowadays are Tanzania and Mozambique. The first trading posts were founded in the early days, when people from Asia and Arab countries sailed along the coast, looking for new markets.
Where rivers flow into the sea, people have always settled down. That is what happened in the delta of the (what we now call) Limpopo River. In the fifth century dark people from the north (who had come down from the Nile deltaand Ethiopia) have built settlements near the confluence of the Limpopo River and the Shashi River, archaeologists have discovered.
Kingdom of Mapungubwe
The landscape nowadays looks desolate. The valley is open and wide, the mopane trees are not sky high, and the giant baobab trees are eye catchers. The small granite hills, which are called ‘koppies’ by the locals, are landmarks in this savannah area. One of those is ‘rainmakers hill’ Bolayi, where archaeologists have found pottery, glass and beads from the fifth century. They are witnesses of a great history, going even further back in time than Mapungubwe. Once, between 1200 and 1300 ad, Mapungubwe was the capital of a very wealthy kingdom with 5000 citizens. The king lived on Mapungubwe Hill, remains of tombs with golden artefacts have been found there. For instance a beautiful small golden rhinoceros, which since Nelson Mandela has become a symbol of South Africa. Gold and ivory were important trade issuesin these middle ages.
Limpopo is not only a river, it is also the name of the most northern province of South Africa. It isn’t by accident that president Ramaphosa and his close advisor Motshekga come from this province. This is where the people belong to Venda people, who speak their own Venda-language.
Motshekga: “Once this region was called Monomotapa. It was a mighty land between the Zambezi River in the north and the Elephants River in the south. People called it the Kingdom of the Sun. Now, many centuries later, we must defend this historical and almost holy region. This is the ideal spot to give this part of Africa a new future.”
Motshekga draws a map of southern Africa without borders between Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Together these countries can conquer the problems. A period of prosperity will come, and the situation that existed before the arrival of Dutch, Portuguese and English colonists will be restored. A country like Monomotapa in a modern sense, and with the cooperation of all the inhabitants, black and white.
No time to loose according to Dr Mathole Mothekga
There is not much time to loose, Dr Motshekga emphasises. Every country is trying to solve the huge problems of these days in its own way. Foreign investors from China, Russia and Saudi Arabia want to help, but also they want influence. This could lead to new forms of colonial repression, Motshekga warns. He even warns for modern slavery. “They have to keep their hands from this holy country. This is the land of the people who live here together in harmony, black and white. We are not xenophobes, but it is time to struggle for a future and live in peace.”
But why this region as the centre of new developments? Why Mapungubwe? Motshekga has a number of reasons.
- First of all the geographic position, on the border of three countries, at the confluence of two important rivers.
- The riches of minerals: gold, diamonds, graphite, copper, coal etc.
- The almost mythical power of the region. Former president and leader of the ‘Boers’ Paul Kruger lived here. One of the granite ‘koppies’ is still named ‘Krugerkoppie’.
- Field marshal andPrime Minister Jan Smuts lived here and wrote his concept for the charter of a United Southern Africa and for the United Nations at the foot of Dongola Hill. Dongola is also the name of an important city in Sudan. These two Dongolas in north and south are seen as the ultimate reunion of African countries.
- And Motshekga mentions a surprising reason for choosing this area as the centre of future developments. This is the region where during centuries the Modjadji Queen reigns. This rain queen reigns over the Balobedu people from Limpopo. She is a successor of the Kingdom of Monomotapa. It is a matriarchal dynasty and Motshekga is sure that a female leader will be much more successful than a male leader.
Dr Mathole Mothekga and the Modjadji Queen
Motshekga: “De Modjadji Queen will be an important instrument against the abuse of power that we have seen too much in Africa. Male leaders have caused lots of troubles over the years, they have filled their pockets and left the people poor. It would be a sign of power and self-confidence if the Africans – of all colours, believe or race – can withstand the temptation to deal with foreign investors like Arabs, Russians or Chinese.
Let this movement be led by a female leader, who still has much support in this part of the country. From far away people come to the Modjadji Queen to ask for her help. Even now, though the Modjadji Queen is not reigning, as she only is fifteen years old. At this moment she is now trained to take the lead.”
The woman are the way forwards according to Dr Mathole Mothekga
One of the people who prepare the Modjadji Queen for her future responsibility is… Dr Mathole Motshekga, so he knows what he is talking about. “The world’s population is half men, half women. But in many civilisations you see men in leading positions and women in less important roles. Sometimes women in certain positions are being put there as kind of an excuse. Only to support the male power. And what is the result of that male power? War and violence. History has proven too often what male leadership leads to.
If the Modjadji Queen would indeed be the future leader of the United States of Southern Africa, the choice for Mapungubwe as the capital would be logical, Motshekga argues: “When you read the syllables one by one, you read Ma=mother, Pungu=wisdom and Bwe=stone. All together: The wisdom of the female Rock.”
Long dream to reality says Dr Mathole Mothekga
It’s a long way from dream to reality. But for Motshekga it is clear that a good and constant communication about the importance of African cooperation is the only way to achieve prosperity. Communication not only to the African people, but also to others, all over the world. Motshekga: “African history is a mystery for many.
Nobody knows exactly what has happened here. Ramaphosa has many friends all over the world. This is the moment to spread his ideas. To create a strong southern African region, for the Africans. Let this land give its riches to the people who live here, and not to Muslims/Arabs or whatever invaders, who are keen to exploit Monomotapa. Instead of keeping our people poor, it is time to build a prosperous country.”
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